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Energy and Environment

'Threatened' Redbelly Snake May Be Downgraded

State officials are considering easing regulatory protection of a short, reclusive snake found in northeastern Kansas.

The Threatened and Endangered Species Task Force, which is chaired by a Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism biologist, recommended that the redbelly snake remain listed as threatened.

The department's secretary Robin Jennison, however, exercised his authority to alter the recommendation; Jennison urged downgrading the snake to a "species in need of conservation," which would provide it less protection.

There have been complaints that redbelly snake's designation as a threatened species has held up developments.

When a species is listed as threatened, developers must obtain a permit and take steps to mitigate the harm caused by their projects.

During a commission meeting Thursday at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center near Great Bend, representatives of the Kansas Wildlife Federation and the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club spoke in favor of leaving the redbelly snake as "threatened."

The latter group also objected to another recommendation before the commission to change the status of the smooth earth snake from threatened to a species in need of conservation.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission is expected to consider changes to the redbelly snake and several other species when it convenes in October.